Wizarding Experiences in California
The Place: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood (in Los Angeles, California, USA)
A Flight Into Harry's World------in California!
Universal Studios Hollywood was the second Universal Studios theme park to add The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood to their attractions. Some may think that a theme park experience would pale next to visiting sites that were the blueprint for J.K. Rowling's castles and curio shops. Perhaps, but Universal Studios excels in set design and creating interactive and 3D adventures, ... so the castles, shops, alleys, and varied attractions that were built according to the descriptions in the books may, for many, allow for an even more authentic Harry Potter experience. It certainly made us feel like we were exploring the fantasy world with Harry and his friends (and sometimes with his enemies).
In anticipation for the journey to the Universal theme parks, you may want to visit their website and enjoy the interactive tour (it's entertaining and very well done). Visit: https://www.wizardingworldhollywood.com/ (This is the closest thing I've found to a functional Cloak of Invisibility that one might use as they travel through Hogwarts).
“You might belong in Gryffindor, Where dwell the brave at heart, Their daring, nerve, and chivalry, Set Gryffindors apart; You might belong in Hufflepuff, Where they are just and loyal, Those patient Hufflepuffs are true, And unafraid of toil; Or yet in wise old Ravenclaw, If you've a ready mind, Where those of wit and learning, Will always find their kind; Or perhaps in Slytherin, You'll make your real friends, These cunning folks use any means To achieve their ends.” ― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Whereas, we experienced The Wizarding World of Harry Potter attractions in two neighboring parks at Universal Studios Florida, the attraction is still a work in progress at the California theme park. The Hogwarts Express Railroad, for example, can be toured, but it isn't park transportation (yet?). You can still pass through Platform 9 ¾ (disappearing behind the brick wall) to board the Hogwarts Express Railroad, though.
In the book and movie, Harry and his friends often take flight. We experienced this sensation on two rides, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and The Flight of Hippogriff. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey allowed us to explore Hogwarts corridors and classrooms, then soar above castle grounds as we followed Harry in a Quidditch Match and engaged in a thrilling chase with magical creatures. The Flight of Hippogriff is a family-friendly roller coaster that helps riders learn the proper way to approach a Hippogriff before we can enjoy the spirals and dives past Hagrid's hut. (It's much milder than my favorite coaster in the Florida park. We'll see if they build a Dragon's Challenge at the California park in the future).
Here's a link to a YouTube Clip of Harry Potter's Funniest Moments: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFc0O3YXpV4
“Expelliarmos!"― J.K. Rowling, The Harry Potter series
There are interactive wands and fun places to put them to cast spells! The purchased wands offer the chance to practice sorcery by using motions and spells to create magical moments (like making a fountain spurt a stream of water at the special flick of the wand). The staff at Ollivanders helps wannabe wizards select a special wand (including Harry Potter film character wand replicas). It's good to note that there are decorative wands and interactive wands. We recommend purchasing a decorative wand (from a selection of "wand replicas") for young children, because they cost less and most children (and their parents) seem really frustrated by the degree of effort needed to make them work on park attractions that interact with the wands. It's better for a child to be able to just play with or practice using a wand and then graduate to an interactive wand when they're old enough to more easily work the spells.
Here's a link to a YouTube Clip of Best Scenes from Harry Potter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eiuCdPJ83n4
There are also robes, hats, Quidditch uniforms, socks, and other "wizardwear" as well as tea sets, candies, and other items available to outfit and entertain young and old wizards.
Street vendors and taverns sell Butterbeer, which is an alcohol-free, cream-topped soda with a butterscotch flavor. It comes as a cold beverage or a frozen slush (I prefer the slushy version). There's also Butterbeer-flavored fudge and ice cream.
“Ah! Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans! I was unfortunate enough in my youth to come across a vomit-flavored one, and since then I’m afraid I’ve rather lost my liking for them — but I think I’ll be safe with a nice toffee, don’t you?” He smiled and popped the golden-brown bean into his mouth. “Alas! Ear wax!” ― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
We enjoyed several delicacies from Honeydukes, such as Chocolate Frogs, Fizzing Whizzbees, exploding bonbons, and Bertie Bott's Every-Flavour Beans (some of which were tasty and some not so tasty). The Three Broomsticks serves British fare in rustic tavern-style settings. Our favorite is the family-style Great Feast Platter with roasted chicken, ribs, corn on the cob, vegetables, and other delights. They say it feeds four, but there were leftovers from our party of six. It's a fun and tasty experience. And there's an English breakfast...a little bacon to get our Harry Potter adventure underway.
“I hope you're pleased with yourselves. We could all have been killed - or worse, expelled. Now if you don't mind, I'm going to bed.” ― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone